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Fewer excuses to refuse modern barns for conversion into dwellings

There are now fewer excuses to refuse modern barns for conversion into dwellings.

We are pleased to report that there have been some much needed updates to government guidance. Specifically on the interpretation of permitted development rights for barn conversions into dwellings (Class C).

These changes relate to the previous assumption that ‘new structural elements’ were not allowed.

We have long been frustrated by some council’s attitude towards modern barn conversions. By ‘modern’ barns, we mean the large barns clad in concrete block, timber boarding or metal sheeting. They usually have roofs of metal or asbestos sheet roofing (not the pretty stone and brick barns).

At CNA, we have always seen barn conversions as a way of providing much needed housing in rural areas without harming the countryside via new-build.

Since permitted development rights for barn conversions into dwellings arrived in March 2014, we have worked on a number of barns, previously viewed by councils as ‘unsustainable’. Prior to March 2014 these barns would not have received permission for development into homes. Usually due to their location in open countryside and their lack of proximity to local services. It’s very common for rural homes to be at a distance from local amenities and so planners expecting people to be within walking distance is not reasonable in these contexts.

Despite the March 2014 changes, we have continued to have problems with some councils (only two that we work with) on modern barn conversions.

We have consistently argued that to convert these would not make the appearance of the countryside any worse.

People are very used to seeing these buildings in rural settings. In fact, though not classically ‘pretty’ they are part of our rural heritage, and personally I quite like the purely functional aesthetic of some of them. They are not easy to convert into homes, but can and do make beautiful ones with a bit of thought.

Previously these two councils have used any possible excuse to throw out modern barn conversions under permitted development. Usually it is the ‘no new structural elements’ piece of guidance that they use.

Typically, modern barns are not designed to take the increased roof loads needed for a habitable dwelling, they are also not designed to have first floors. Therefore ‘new structural elements’ are usually required to make these buildings habitable.

These things are forgotten in traditional barn conversions, for which, new first floors and additional structure are nearly always allowed.  They are heritage buildings worth preserving.

 

Finally, in February, the Housing Ministry updated their Class Q guidance to state:

 

Internal works are not generally development. For the building to function as a dwelling it may be appropriate to undertake internal structural works, including to allow for a floor, the insertion of a mezzanine or upper floors within the overall residential floor space permitted, or internal walls, which are not prohibited by Class Q.

In addition, it states in section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act:

 

The categories of work that do not amount to ‘development’ …include, but are not limited to the following:

  • interior alterations (except mezzanine floors which increase the floorspace of retail premises by more than 200 square metres)

  • building operations which do not materially affect the external appearance of a building. The term ‘materially affect’ has no statutory definition, but is linked to the significance of the change which is made to a building’s external appearance.

If these alterations do not count as ‘development’, it means they do not need planning permission. It is the same as altering internal walls to your house. You would need building control approval, but you wouldn’t need planning permission (unless your house is listed).

 

However, there is still the ‘conversion’ vs ‘rebuild’ debate.

Although we have been successful on gaining permission for ‘re-build’ with some councils (see this example). This is still tricky territory and each situation would need to be looked at individually.

 

The Housing Ministry have also issued guidance on this:

It is not the intention of the permitted development right to allow rebuilding work which would go beyond what is reasonably necessary for the conversion of the building to residential use.

 

Based on a recent High Court judgement (Hibbitt v SSCLG [2016]), for a barn to be suitable for conversion it would likely need to have 3 or more walls in place. This means open sided hay barns would not count. But many concrete block and timber walled modern barns that are fully enclosed, would count.

 

Although there are now fewer excuses to refuse modern barns for conversion into dwellings. In addition to the rebuild vs conversion debate, there are still several other ‘tests’ to pass, namely:

  • Transport and highways impacts of the development
  • Noise impacts
  • Contamination risk
  • Flooding risk
  • Whether the location or siting of the building makes it otherwise impractical or undesirable for the building to change from agricultural use to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of the Schedule to the Use Classes Order (see this blog with reference to this particular ‘test’), and
  • The design or external appearance of the building

Verdict: It is getting easier to convert modern barns, but it is still not easy.

If you want to read more, please see our other barn blogs

May 10, 2018
Fewer excuses to refuse modern barns for conversion into dwellings

Barn conversions – Greater flexibility for the number and sizing of dwellings

barn conversions to dwellings. The new changes offer greater flexibility for the number and sizing of dwellings allowed.Great news for housing provision in the countryside!

More options have now been given under Class C for barn conversions to dwellings. The new changes offer greater flexibility for the number and sizing of dwellings allowed.

On 12th March 2018, the housing minister Dominic Raab gave an announcement. Previously permitted development only offered the potential for 3 large homes. Now the creation of 5 smaller homes is also allowed as an alternative. These changes offer greater flexibility in both the number and sizing of dwellings allowed under permitted development rights.

The idea is to boost housing opportunities in rural areas. Hooray for that.

Basically the changes are as follows:

Previously you could convert up to 465m2 of your barn into a maximum of 3 dwellings. Now you can convert a barn into a maximum of 5 smaller homes (each less than 100m2). Or you can create a mixture, but with no more than 3 larger homes.

Here’s more from Dominic Raab

If you would like to read more about barn conversions, please have a look at our barn blogs

May 10, 2018
Barn conversions – Greater flexibility for the number and sizing of dwellings